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Prepare your dog for the 4th of July

For humans, fireworks always mean fun and celebration. For dogs, they are a real-life nightmare.

Most dogs learn to live with us and they get used to the most sudden or cheering noises that we make when we are celebrating a life event or Holiday. Fireworks and firecrackers sounds, however, are something that they simply don’t understand and can’t get used to. Dogs have a much better hearing than we do, and the loud thunderous bangs scare the living life out of them no matter how often they hear these sounds.

Since we are preparing for the 4th of July, it might be a good idea to also get our pups ready too. 

Some of the worst consequences of fireworks on dogs include:

  • Running away from home: this usually happens because they don’t understand where the noise is coming from and they simply want to escape from it. Unfortunately, many dogs that are not microchipped or don’t have a tag get lost from their families and end up in shelters.
  • Looking for a hiding place: dogs associate loud noises with imminent danger and they will look for shelter. Fireworks and firecrackers sounds are to dogs what war sounds are to you.
  • Tremors and even seizures or fits: fireworks noises impact can be so strong that they interfere with brain activity and can provoke uncontrollable tremors or even seizures.
  • Some dogs can become aggressive: this happens not because they are vicious, but because they are terrified and become defensive. Aggressiveness can be displayed against humans or even other pets in the house.

While we love the lively celebration and the colorful fireworks, dogs do not understand exactly what is happening. The 4th of July fireworks sounds are a serious cause of trauma for dogs. Still, you can easily avoid this unnecessary stress by taking a few measures with little or even no cost.

How do I prepare my dog for the 4th of July?

  1. Keep them close to you until the fireworks stop: being close to you can bring comfort and will reassure them that they are safe. Plus, this will prevent dogs from running away from home and from hurting themselves. Rest assured that your dog fears not only for their life but also for you too. Still, if they see that you show no distress or anxiety, they can become more relaxed.
  2. Prevent your dog from running away: if your dog tries to run away, a collar or a harness can give you something to hold on to them without hurting them. Grabbing dogs on their fur or scruffing them might scare them even worst and even cause them harm. Some also recommend putting the dog in a blanket-covered crate. This might be a good idea if your dog has a tendency to become aggressive in stressful situations. If you think that there is a high risk for your pup to escape, make sure that the dog is microchipped and that the collar has a tag on it with your contact details.
  3. Stay as calm as possible while next to your dog: a scared dog can react in many different ways, including biting. Make sure your reactions are not sudden and you don’t launch onto your pup for whatever reason. Relaxing music or any other noise might work too, as it will cover, at least in part, the firework sound. You can also limit the fireworks sound by closing all doors and windows.
  4. Try plant-based treats and natural remedies: Valerian root, John’s wort, passionflower and chamomile supplements for dogs are known to alleviate fear and anxiety. Cannabidiol or hemp extract, also known as CBD, Pheromone electrically heated diffusers, and homeopathic remedies, are also demonstrated to help dogs relax and cope better in stressful situations. For these measures to work, you might want to start one to two weeks before the event. This way, the natural ingredients will have enough time to build up in your pup’s system and take the expected effect. Still, bear in mind that natural supplements and remedies work only in mild cases of fear and anxiety.
  5. Engage your dog in playtime sessions and physical activities: keeping them busy and active will give dogs less energy to react to loud noises. If your pup is exhausted from playtime and exercise sessions, the chances are that they will be less sensitive to the sounds and they will want to sleep.
  6. Feed the dog before the fireworks start: being hungry might increase the level of anxiety. Thus, a fed fur baby will be more relaxed. Some dogs will refuse food for a while, even after the fireworks stop, so you might want to feed your pup while still comfortable.
  7. Try desensitizing sounds: sound desensitization refers to the process of getting your dog used to any sound that causes fear and anxiety. You can find either free or paid, with instructions, audio tracks with fireworks sounds. You can play these sounds, starting on the lowes level and gradually increase the volume until your pup no longer fears fireworks sounds. The desensitizing process might take weeks to even months, so you need to be patient. Some dogs learn to tolerate or even enjoy fireworks. Sill, this happens only in rare cases after pup owners work really hard on getting their furbaby used to the loud noises.
  8. Take your dog for a walk in an area that is protected from fireworks: if nothing else works, both you and your pup can enjoy a long walk in the countryside or other areas where fireworks are not allowed. You can even consider going on a short trip, with your dog, anywhere lovely, where there are no festivities.

Make sure you have the contact info for the closest veterinary clinic in case anything goes wrong. Also, while nobody wants to think about this, having the address and phone number of the dog shelter in your area might be necessary.

Keep your pup safe and have a Happy 4th of July!

References:

Cracknell, Nina R., and Daniel S. Mills. “A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Stud into the Efficacy of a Homeopathic Remedy for Fear of Firework Noises in the Dog (Canis Familiaris).” The Veterinary Journal, vol. 177, no. 1, 2008, pp. 80–88., DOI:10.1016/j.tvjl.2007.04.007.

Dale, Ar, et al. “A Survey of Owners’ Perceptions of Fear of Fireworks in a Sample of Dogs and Cats in New Zealand.” New Zealand Veterinary Journal, vol. 58, no. 6, 2010, pp. 286–291., DOI:10.1080/00480169.2010.69403.

Levine, E. D., and D. S. Mills. “Long-Term Followup of the Efficacy of a Behavioural Treat  Programme for Dogs with Firework Fears.” Veterinary Record, vol. 162, no. 20, 2008, pp. 657–659., DOI:10.1136/vr.162.20.657.

Sheppard, G., and D. S. Mills. “Evaluation of Dog-Appeasing Pheromone as a Potential Treat for Dogs Fearful of Fireworks.” Veterinary Record, vol. 152, no. 14, 2003, pp. 432–436., DOI:10.1136/vr.152.14.432.

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